Hiking, Backpacking, Camping

Day Hiking the Purisima Creek Redwoods

The Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve, home to coastal redwood trees, is probably one of the most beautiful areas on the Peninsula in the SF Bay Area. There are 24 miles of hiking trails in the preserve. The trail with arguably the best views is the Whittemore Gulch and Harkins Ridge Trails, which form a nice loop when combined. Throw in a 2.5 mile round-trip detour on the North Ridge Trail for more views!


  • Date: 4.29.17
  • Miles: 7 mi
  • Elevation Profile: +2,242, -2270 ft.
  • Trail Type: Loop
  • Cost: Free
    The described route is highlighted in green

    The described route is highlighted in green

    The Hike

    Getting up and hitting the trail early is so important in the Bay Area! You'll never get a parking spot otherwise. The preserve opens a half hour before sunrise (and closes a half hour after sunset). If you want to hike on the weekend, you best get to the lot before 9 am.

    The hike starts out in the wooded hills, as you head down towards Purisima Creek. In the spring, you'll see beautiful wildflowers all along the trail.


    As you descend the switchbacks, your views of the ocean will start to open up, as will the hills of the preserve!


    At about one mile in, you'll have the option to spur off onto the North Ridge Trail, which follows the ridge line of one of the hills. This spur will add about 2.5 miles total to your hike, and offer even more views! I didn't take this spur as I was on a time crunch this day, but I've heard its beautiful! Once you continue further down the switchbacks, the trail will again become more wooded and lush as you make your way down to the creek.

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    As the trail eventually flattens out, you'll come to a pit toilet and signs to a different parking area. This is a great place to rest and prepare yourself for the relentless 2,000 ft climb back to the trail head! Follow signs to the Harkins Ridge Trail and you'll find the Purisima Creek, with a few dirt areas to get close to the water. Its generally pretty shallow, but can flow more after a heavy rain.

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    The Harkins Ridge trail steadily gains elevation all the way back to the trailhead, definitely with some steep climbs. The trail can be exposed and a little washed out at times, so watch your step and watch out for snakes, which like to sunbathe in the middle of the trail (we almost stepped on one!). You'll see the same amazing views of the hills and ocean as you make your way back to your car.

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    This is a wonderful high-reward hike, definitely a gem in the Bay Area! I highly recommend coming here if you're looking for a getaway from the city.